Fear and Loathing in La Famiglia

Everyone loves an Italian grandmother, right? She showers you with love and attention. She slips you money as you're headed out the door so you can "buy yourself a treat," even though you're now 30 years old, have a job, and can buy your own treats, and she encourages you to eat your weight in macaroni at Sunday dinners because "you're looking thin." That's my grandma to a T. She practically raised me growing up. We're super-close, and I love her to pieces. That said, I believe she fears I'm slowly killing her first great-grandchild with my lax parenting skills.

My grandma is a pupil of the old school. She believes babies should be very warm, very covered, very nourished, and very sheltered. So, for your reading pleasure, I present to you

Grandma's Laundry List of Child-Rearing Practices, Most of Which I'm Not Following:

1.) Babies should wear no less than five layers of clothing at all times. They should wear only sleepers for the first six months of their lives. No actual clothing. At all. Because it makes them uncomfortable. I have left Isabella with her while I've gone out for a run or to the store and upon my return, have found the babe, whom I left clad in a shirt and pants, decked out in one of the 10 or so sleepers she owns. When I ask grandma what happened, she's said Ella has peed or pooped on the pants, and she needed to change her. Inspection of aforementioned garments show no evidence of any such bodily fluid.

2.) Babies hands should be covered at all times because their hands are freezing. Also, they are likely to poke out an eye since they're constantly swiping at their faces. My grandma tells Isabella all the time, "Your mommy needs to cover your hands! They're so cold." Paranoid that I was slowly giving my baby frost bite, I looked up "cold hands" in my trusty "What To Expect The First Year" and found that babies' hands and feet are always cold because they direct most of their blood flow to their internal organs at the center of their body. So, just because their hands are cold, doesn't mean they are cold all over. Phew! And her eyeballs? Still safely lodged in her skull, thank you very much.

3.) Babies should be fed formula, not breastmilk, because that's what she fed all five of her kids, including my mother. Now, to be fair, she hasn't come right out and said this to me. But she'll make comments like, "I wonder if she's really satisfied after you're through nursing her?" and "Maybe you should give her a bottle of formula so you know how much she's eating." This one bugs me the most, because breastfeeding is a lot of work and I'm the only one capable of doing it for Ella. And having unsupportive family members (grandma isn't the only one) tell me I should be supplementing or worse yet, not breastfeeding at all irks me. It's a completely personal choice, but breastmilk really is what's best for babies. Plus, she's pooping, peeing, and gaining weight (9 pounds, 10 ounces as of last week!), so I know my baby isn't growing up to look like an Olsen twin.

4.) Babies nails shouldn't be clipped until they are at least two years old. The first time I cut Ella's nails, I nicked her slightly under one nail with the infant clippers. I felt horrible about it. But my grandma I think, felt worse. The day after this incident occured, my great aunt brought over a baby nail clipping kit that contained a magnifying glass. Word travels fast in my family, you see.

5.) Babies shouldn't be taken out anywhere in public until they're old enough to walk there themselves because the germs! They are EVERYWHERE! And they WILL kill her. We started taking Ella out when she was about six weeks old. I take her to church, the store, restaurants, etc. I won't take her to hospitals and nursing homes because those places really are hotbeds of disease, but pretty much everywhere else is fair game. Grandma (and my mom) think this is assinine. Apparently, I'm supposed to stay holed up in my house with her until she's 11, and I've forgotten what the outside world looks like.

Grandma and I are generations apart, and I know much has changed since she was raising her kids, my mom and my aunts and uncles. And really, much has changed since I was a baby as well. And grandma really does have a PhD in childcare. If I ever had a question about something Isabella was doing, I'm certain grandma would have the answer (of course, whether it was the right answer is up for debate). And she's fantastic with the little bean, who loves her great-grandma to pieces and sleeps calmly in her arms for hours.

But there's a wee little part of me that goes a little off the deep end each time I hear that I'm doing something wrong in the motherhood department. I know that where babies are concerned, everyone's an expert, and since Ella's my first, I'm certainly not. But I think I'm doing a fairly good job. I mean, I've managed to keep her alive for 10 weeks now. That's gotta count for something, right?

11 Responses to “Fear and Loathing in La Famiglia”

  1. # Blogger Christine

    Everyone will have an opinion, it's just harder to tell those people to shove off when it's family that you love and respect. That said, you're doing a GREAT job! Just try to roll with it, and not offend.

    Although, if I were a baby, I would probably like to be dressed in a sleeper all the time too, but this is coming from a girl who if she doesn't have to, might refrain from getting out of her pajamas all Saturday.  

  2. # Blogger M

    Again, I Could have written your post myself. My grandma is Slovak, not Italian, but her words of wisdom sound just like your grandma's.
    My grandma fed me mashed potatoes and chicken broth at a VERY young age...and she also rubbed whiskey on my gums when I was teething. Perhaps this is why I so keenly like alcohol?
    It was 75* in our house when my grandmother was here and told me I needed to cover her with a blanket. I said no, she was fine, and when I left the room she went over and covered her up!
    Sounds like a grandma thing!  

  3. # Blogger Shannon

    omg... I'm sorry but that is sooo funny... but I also can see why you are going nuts... I think you are doing a great job!! But, I haven't had to deal with that since both of my grandmothers are dead... and Jeremy's grandmothers haven't seen Lorelei very much... so I haven't had to deal with them yet hehehe... so we shall see lol...  

  4. # Blogger Shannon

    Kristi, in light of this post, you're going to love the book I'm sending you (via Karrie) this weekend!  

  5. # Blogger Marie

    Oh my goodness. A magnifying glass? I think you should get your family on La Leche League's mailing list. They'll set grandma and the rest straight!!

    You are doing a great job Kristi!!!

    The first year or so, practically everything my mother-in-law said to me that was in any way related to my mothering abilities REALLY irked me. I've gotten to where I can brush it off more easily as I feel so much more confident now.

    One of her early comments (to my son) -- after I fed him cold cereal and fruit: "Are you ready for something more substantial now?" Oh, and always the inquiries about is such-and-such that he's having organic?... are those whole grain?, blah, blah, blah.

    Yeah, they mean well. But sheesh. We're not talking life or death.

    There's a proverb I like that has to do with wisdom -- it has two parts: knowing when to speak & when to keep your trap shut. (no, that's not verbatim)  

  6. # Blogger sher

    That was so funny to read--but I know it must be less than fun to deal with it. It's funny because so many new parents say their elderly relatives do the same thing. The excessive clothes, the excessive fear of germs, etc. Seriously--the nail clipping kit? ACK!! Your family sure sounds like mine!  

  7. # Blogger kenju

    Mothers and grandmothers WILL offer you advice on child-rearing whether you want it or not, and their advice is seldom what you believe you should do. Go with your heart and the current books, and you will do fine.  

  8. # Blogger Becky

    Thank you so much for stopping by my blog! I thought I would return the favor and I am glad I did!
    P.S. Your pumpkin pound cake looked amazing!  

  9. # Blogger l

    It's funny the neurosis babies induce in people...the fretting, the expression of opinions that maybe should be kept to themselves. I'm sure you're doing great - hello! Isabella's gaining weight and has started an amazing blog modeling career!  

  10. # Blogger smashedpea

    Heh :) My mother thought it was fun for Sophie to learn how to walk in our yard - which at the time was full of sharp rocks, pieces of glass and the like (what can I say, previous owners must have been slobs... it's all cleaned up now).

    Otherwise she also tried to tell me that breastfeeding wasn't going to cut it, especially not since Sophie was so huge (over 10 lbs at birth) and I really should be giving her some real food.

    They mean well, at least that's what I'm hoping :)  

  11. # Blogger Suzanne

    I was wondering when I was going to get to the "dear God, let me just take care of my own kid!" blogs lol!  

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